Ronnie has had his share of close calls, just as did Mr. Haney and Mr. Yates, but in the end, when all was said and done, no one could deny this man his place as the Sports Leading Man! The season started as most of us predicted:
The Pro Ironman Invitational in Los Angeles California with Chris Cormier the defending champion won easy and would go onto capture his 4th Straight Pro Ironman Title. Dennis James had the flu and would sit this one out but Chris got pushed by Lee Priest, Rookie Pro Quincy Taylor at a hearty 290lbs and Ahmad Hadair. No real surprises but the show helped spark a return of the "Sultan of Symmetry" Flex Wheeler for the Mr. Olympia later in the year!
The Arnold Classic was up next in Columbus Ohio. The showdown would pit Chris against the 1st Runner-up at the 2001 Mr. Olympia, Jay Cutler not to mention the addition of James, Dexter Jackson, former ASC Champion Kevin Levrone and the ever-present Australian, and Lee Priest!
As I was commentating the show for television with Mike Matarrazo, which Physical TV never aired, I noticed at the end of the Pre-judging I was leaning towards the balance and shape of Cormier giving him the edge to victory and Mike was looking at a Massive Cutler Upset! In the end, Jay would win the show unanimously on all score cards with Perfect Scores, a $100 Grand & the New H2 Hummer to go with the ASC Trophy presented by the man himself, Arnold!
When the dust settled, Dexter finished 3rd, Lee 4th, Levrone 5th and the rest was history! A side note was former ASC Champion Nasser El Sonbaty finishing in a dismal 9th place duplicating his 2001 Mr. O finish. His shoulders were the topic of the weekend, which may have attributed to his poor finish. Some whispers about Kevin Levrone began to circulate as well. I had inside knowledge that Kevin had been fighting off a Hernia while trying to prepare for the show and could not duplicate the Levrone of old. He had signed the contract to compete and like a MAN, he fulfilled his obligation and took his lumps but swore he would be back with a vengeance!
The guys then headed west to San Francisco, California where Cormier had won the last 2 years! After tasting a bitter defeat to the tune of $45,000.00, Chris felt he would pick up a cool $10,000.00, since Jay chose to pass on the event, WRONG!
Lee Priest felt he could improve on his condition from the ASC and Chris felt he could relax a minute before taking off to Europe. Lee scored an impressive 4th Round Knockout in Frisco to win his 1st Pro show, while Chris had to settle for 2nd place again.
The Australian Grand Prix
The Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne Australia came toward the end of March when all the guys were tired from the traveling. Chris Cormier handled his business like no other and mustered up just enough to hold off the restless hungry lions to grab the number 1 spot for the second year in a row! Kevin Levrone would again place a dismal 5th place and the fans would soon be throwing in the towel of support as he competed as a Shadow of his old self.
The Southwest Pro
The Southwest Pro in Dallas Texas was a new show to the circuit. It would bring Darrem Charles his 1st Pro win, a well deserved I might add! Paul Dillett was back after a 2-year absence from competition due to legal problems. For Darrem it was a long time coming, in a word he was, "SLICED!" None of the other guys on that stage could match the separation and condition. Bob Chicerillo challenged but was too soft in glutes & hams to present much of a real threat to 1st place nevertheless served notice that he would be a force to be dealt with in the future! JD Douwadu got the shaft of the evening, finishing in 4th and failing to nab a qualifying spot for the Mr. O but gave George Farrah the opportunity of a lifetime, as he would qualify for his 1st Mr. Olympia being that he was very hard and dry!
The New York, Night of Champions pitted more than just muscles and posedowns! Promoter, Wayne Demilia pitted bodybuilding's LOUD MOUTH, King Kamali against, yours truly, in what was supposed to be a "Battle of Dis-RESPECT!" Well, I never played that card with Kamali, whom at the time, I had never had a direct conversation with. He seemed hella bent on telling everyone who would listen, that he would, "Wipe the floor with me and send me into retirement!"
Finally, after the 2001 Mr. Olympia, where he had been stating all year what he was going to do to me, what he would say to me and how he would finish me, we met face to FACE! I have to say, when the dust settled after the 2001 Olympia where I placed 4th again and finished Kamali 10th, I felt he would relax and let it go, since he didn't even get a call out with me. NOT!
He ran me down some more on his web site; to people that knew prior and again me to this year's Mr. Olympia! To my surprise he began the night as my Co-MC for the evening with, "Let me start by saying, I have great respect for Shawn Ray, he is a legend and I only hope to have half the success he has before my career is over!" WOW! I was blown away! After the entire smack, after the entire BS, Kamali sacked up and came correct in front of 3,000 fans! Needless to say, I forgave him on the spot and we continued the evening with Mutual Respect.
The Night Of Champions
Marcus Ruhl would come out and conquer the New York stage and audience, as he pulled off his 2nd Pro win in his career and the $15,000.00 1st place prize money! Dusting off the comeback of former NOC Champ Paul Dillett, with Bob Chicerillo commanding the number 2 spot, and qualifying for his first Mr. O in 3rd place was the Spaniard, Pico Batista! Talk about freaky dry! This guy had striations on top of striations! His weaknesses held him back from creating more havoc among the big names i.e.; Structure, Torn Pec, Funky Shoulders and bottom Heavy legs! Darrem Charles, Craig Titus and everyone else who came to do battle, had to settle for the best of the rest!
Prior to the start of the show, I had asked Wayne Demilia if I could present him with some money raised by me on behalf of some top pros like Levrone, Jackson, Yates, James, Cormier & myself which would have totaled approx. $12,500.00. This would have represented half of the estimated $25,000.00 I was trying to raise for the guys who would not finish top 10 of the Mr. O. Wayne stated to me, "The Powers that be (IFBB) would NOT allow me to accept any monies raised to benefit anyone in the Mr. Olympia." End quote.
Se la Vie'.
The Toronto, Canada Pro
Onto the Great White North and the Toronto Canada Proâ€¦ New pro and 2001 American National Champion, Art Atwood from Wisconsin would Rock Markus Ruhl, by coming in hard and shredded! Atwood went toe to toe with the German Giant and Size for Size! Atwood, although not as structurally sound as Ruhl, won the show by coming in shape! This was a two man show from beginning to end the rest was just window dressing.
The Mr. Olympia
The Mr. Olympia started off with some changes: srpic6 First, 12 new Judges that did not judge the previous year!
Second, additional prize money for 2nd through 6th.
Third, Cadillac served up a brand new Escalade for 1st place!
Fourth, GMV Video offered interviews to accompany their backstage video footage and asked me to host the interviews, which gave the athletes and their journey's a voice. srpic6 See the new Back Stage @ the Mr. Olympia Video available on this web site!
British Grand Prix
Onward, across the pond to Birmingham England and the British Grand Prix. This show would provide the "BLADE" Dexter Jackson with his 1st pro win as well!
Dexter knocked off a very lucky Chris Cormier, who edged the Blade out in Vegas for the number 3 spot. I thought Dexter should have been 3rd based on condition in Vegas. Dennis James felt vindicated for his 10 place finish at the Mr. O a couple weeks earlier by taking on and taking out Cormier to nab the number 2 spot here at the British! Chris would land solidly in 3rd but promised next week would be different!
The Dutch Grand Prix
What a difference a week makes! Promoter Dorian Yates confers with Ronnie Coleman and the next thing you know, he is on a plane and taking names! Ronnie making a surprise appearance in Holland to take the hearts out of his competitors and walk with $10 Grand along with number 1 spot! Chris climbed his way back up to number 2 and Dexter would finish 3rd. Next up, Nawlin's!
The GNC Show Of Strength
The new GNC PRO in New Orleans Louisiana would be the site where HISTORY would be made!
GÃ¼nter Schlierkamp who broke into the top 10 for the first time of his young career at the Mr. O by taking 5th place, would come in and halt Ronnie's winning streak and take the $100,000.00 first place prize money as well! This marked the first time a Mr. Olympia Champion has been beaten since 1984, when Lee Haney beat reigning Champ, Samir Bannout to win his 1st of 8 consecutive Mr. Olympia Titles!
GÃ¼nter won every round, as Ronnie seemingly held a smidgen of water beneath the surface of his skin from his trip to Europe. He could not match the condition or momentum of GÃ¼nter who had the crowd praising his every move! GÃ¼nter first won the crowd at the Mr. O then stole their hearts here in New Orleans.
His only order of business here was to break Ronnie's winning streak and open the flood gates for all those who held out belief that ANYTHING is possible if you BELIEVE! Ronnie was gracious in defeat but the person who was beside himself more than GÃ¼nter was Olympia 1st Runner-up, Kevin Levrone!
As he witnessed this upset, he would later state that this was a great day in the HISTORY of our Sport! To actually place 2nd in 4 Mr. Olympia contests with 2 of them behind Ronnie, Kevin felt that HE too, could do what most of us felt impossible to do, beat Mr. Olympia!
GÃ¼nter was walking, talking living proof that it could be done! Cormier would pick up a familiar 3rd place finish and Dexter 4th. Overall, the year produced victories for very deserving people like: Priest, Jackson, Ruhl, Atwood, Cutler, Coleman and now we can add Schlierkamp to the list of Winners in 2002! What will 2003 hold in store leading up to the big dance in Vegas?
October 25th Mandalay Bay will answer ALL of our questions! Who will it be? Can Levrone get over the hump now that he has had his hernia removed? Did we see the best of Ronnie, now that he has tasted defeat or did we wake a Sleeping Giant? Can Cutler prove he has staying power after a year off from the Olympia? Was it the right decision? What happens if he loses in Columbus in March? Is GÃ¼nter the real thing based on the scoring rounds by the IFBB?
Symmetry, Muscularity, Presentation & Posedown does it add up to = GÃœNTER? We will see... Where does all of this leave Shawn Ray? One year layoff from Competition, Producing Muscle Camps, Engagement & Wedding. Hhhmm...
The New Year will bring lots of answers for all of us, stay tuned!
Shawn Ray's 2003 Year In Review!
In Strength & Honor,